Winslet Oscar Query Solved and 'The Dark Knight' Probably Wasn't Snubbed

Photo: The Weinstein Co.

Yesterday I posted an article eternally confused over how Kate Winslet could somehow earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role in The Reader and not Revolutionary Road. I looked into the Academy's rules, discussed the politics of it all and made assumptions here and there. The one thing I was missing was the final piece of the puzzle to help solve at the very least the voting riddle. Finally, after some further digging and this article at Variety I have cleared up this Winslet query as far as the voting process is concerned. Let me first give you the two rules I quoted in my article yesterday:

4. The leading role and supporting role categories will be tabulated simultaneously. If any performance should receive votes in both categories, the achievement shall be only placed on the ballot in that category in which, during the tabulation process, it first receives the required number of votes to be nominated. In the event that the performance receives the numbers of votes required to be nominated in both categories simultaneously, the achievement shall be placed only on the ballot in that category in which it receives the greater percentage of the total votes.

5. In the event that two achievements by an actor or actress receive sufficient votes to be nominated in the same category, only one shall be nominated using the preferential tabulation process and such other allied procedures as may be necessary to achieve that result.

The focus should be on the line where it says "preferential tabulation process" in rule #5 above from the Special Rules for the Acting Awards. This is something I didn't quite understand until just now and it clears up my complaints that Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader may have potentially received fewer votes than her performance in Revolutionary Road based on being the first to receive the required number of votes to be nominated. My reading of the rules was lacking some important information on how the Academy counts their votes.

You see, I assumed voters submit their ballots with their list of five nominees for each category (or however many nominees each category had) and then the number of times a film or performance was mentioned determined their voter's score. That's not how it works. In fact voters are asked to list their nominees in order from 1-5, #1 being their first pick obviously. This is then used to begin tallying the votes.

Here's how it goes and I am going to use Timothy Gray's lead at Variety to formulate my example. Gray used the Director's Branch for his example and I will attempt to convert it over to actors to keep with the Winslet question I posed yesterday.

The accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers assemble the ballots and first determine how many #1 votes an actor/actress needs to earn a nomination. The actors branch has 1,222 voting members and in order to figure out this number they divide 1,222 by six -- i.e., the number of eventual nominees (five) plus one -- which returns 203. They then add 1 to that number and 204 is the number used. This is the number of times an actor/actress must be listed on the voting ballots to earn a nomination, but it doesn't go down the line from 1-5 as you may suspect.

First they look at all the #1 choices on each ballot and put each performance into his/her own stack and once a performance reaches the 204 number they have enough for a nomination and any other ballots voting for that contender are put to the side to ensure everyone's ballot is counted and the process begins with the next name. If, after the first round, there are five contenders who got 204 votes you have your list of nominees. If not they then move to the #2 selections and so forth until five nominations are reached.

In the case of Kate Winslet and her performances in The Reader and Revolutionary Road this means her Reader performance simply received more #1 (and possibly #2) votes than her Revolutionary Road performance and therefore became her nominated performance. Basically the Academy does take the performance with the most votes, it just doesn't do it as I suspected and assumed in yesterday's piece.

Photo: Warner Bros.

This should also help explain why films such as The Dark Knight and WALL•E weren't included as Best Picture nominees. In all likelihood those two films were mentioned on several ballots (maybe even more than The Reader), they simply weren't listed as one of the top -- let's say three -- films of the year on those ballots and based on that it means there were probably already five nominees before they got down to counting the #4 and #5 slots on the voters' ballots.

In all actuality this means rarely does a performance or a movie actually get "snubbed" as Gray puts it. Every single Academy voter could have potentially included The Dark Knight and WALL•E on their ballots, but if they had them both around the #4 and #5 slot then they just weren't counted in the "preferential tabulation process".

Now before you look at this and think how stupid this process is and how it isn't fair and so on, do know this isn't a system the Academy adopted on its own. Australia adopted it as early as 1902 for elections in which there is more than one result. The Academy has been using it since 1936.

The goal of the process is to make sure it works from the top down and it sounds like a pretty reasonable way of looking at it if you ask me, but I am still not sure if I entirely agree with using it since I wonder if the voting members even realize it's how their votes are counted. It also seems weird to me that one film could be listed on every ballot around the #4 and #5 slot and end up not getting a nomination. It's hard to argue either side and one of those situations where you just have to go with what's being used. Nothing's perfect and when judging artistic endeavors it's a tough task to reach a consensus.

To read Timothy Gray's article at "Variety", which I used and quoted in putting this article together click here. I hope this helped clear up things for you after my article yesterday probably confused folks. It's a learning process and something I will never forget.

  • Wehtam

    So it's a variation on the Single Transferable Vote system:

    We used this at uni to determine College Exec positions didn't realise The Academy used it too.

  • cy o’nara

    Thanks for the explanation, although it's all b******s anyway!

    Ever since the Forest Gump/Shawshank Redemption debacle (and Shakespeare in Love/Saving Private Ryan, Crash/Brokeback Mountain, etc...) it's been all too painfully obvious that "The Academy" wouldn't recognise a "Best Picture" if it took up naked bongo playing.

  • William

    kinda cheers me up. But imagining anyone putting "The Reader" in choices 1-3, while The Dark Knight, Wall*E, and any other Oscar contender for that matter, at 4-5 is just as puzzling.

  • Emily

    wow.. i really hope that academy members know this when voting.. it would make a difference to how you vote wouldn't it!
    anyway im glad that kate got the reader nomination and can see why many would put it as there 1st or 2nd choice as it is leading and the stand out thing in the film which is also awesome.. but definetly put into choices 1-3 because of kate and the touching/moving aspect when you finish watching.

  • Chris

    yeah The Dark Knight should have been nominated, at least so that they can get a high amount of viewers.

  • Andre

    But imagining anyone putting “The Reader” in choices 1-3, while The Dark Knight, Wall*E, and any other Oscar contender for that matter, at 4-5 is just as puzzling.

    Why is it puzzling? Just because you like these movies (and granted, a lot of other people do) doesn't mean that is the only way to go.

  • NackAttack

    I was shocked about The Reader getting nominated. I should probably reserve judgement until I've actually seen it, but it seemed like the reviews were not very strong. I would have loved for that spot to have gone to, if not Dark Knight, than at least The Wrestler. That movie was more than just strong performances. It was a fantastic film overall.

  • Scott

    It's still a snub, but whatever.

  • stylewriter

    That's the biggest problem with the Academy. Everyone loves to talk about what's "wrong" with the Oscars and they talk in generalities -- doesn't recognize popular movies enough, no one cares about the (fill in the blanks) category, etc. -- all of which are cosmentic changes when Oscar's real problems are much more real and much more deeply rooted:

    THE ACTING BRANCH HAS TOO MUCH POWER -- comprising almost 15% of the entire membership this branch is vastly overrepresented in comparison to the technical categories. Clearly support for The Reader came from the acting and directing branches considering the shocking nomination of Winslet in the Best Actress category and especialy Daltry stunning, out-of-left-field nomination for director. If you have the support of those two branches you're in and there's nothing anyone else can do about it.

    THE VOTING SYSTEM IS OUTDATED -- The Academy's "measured voting system" (as it's called in their rulebook) is the same mess which allowed University of Florida QB Tim Tebow to finish with more first place votes than any Heisman candidate last year and finish third anyway. It's confusing when it doesn't have to be and places too much emphasis on first and second place votes when solid movies like WALL-E, Dark Knight and The Wrestler likely finished consistantly in third, fourth and fifth place. It allows small pockets of rabid supporters (see above about the acting branch) to get their films in while the rest of the voting membership has their wishes ignored. The voting system must be replaced with something more fair, a system where the percentage of ballots a film or performance finishes on is taken into consideration.

    THE ACADEMY IS TOO SMALL -- Since there are only 8,000 members of the Academy and these are lifetime membership it's ridiculous to think there are only 8,000 living individuals worthy of voting on the Oscars when you consider the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people who have worked on movies over the years. There is no reason for the writing (under 200 members???) and technical branches to be so woefully underrepresented. Thanks to digitial technology, movies are becoming more and more of a technical medium and it's insulting to these people, often those with the most work to do on a movie, are snubbed and ignored.

  • stylewriter

    @Andre: Because it's evidence of a symptomatic problem with the Oscars: they're becoming more and more a nitch group with specific likes and dislikes rather than an award rewarding overall excellence. Their obsession with WWII and Holocaust movies is no different than the Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy and their genre awards.

  • adu

    I havent seen The Reader, so I'll hold my judgment on that. But I can say for sure that TDK and The Wrestler should have been in there rather than Milk & Frost/Nixon.

  • joker47

    The Dark Knight got snubbed however you want to put it. I still can't see how a movie like The Reader can be nominated over an epic masterpiece like The Dark Knight. It just goes to show that the Academy doesn't like popular movies unless they are 4 hours long (LoTR) and have no surprises what so ever (Titanic). I really can't complain that seriously just because of the nod Heath got. No matter how you put it...that was Heath's movie. Some voters may feel like nominating Heath was enough to honor the film. That could be a possibility but I would rather have a film like The Wrestler, Doubt, or Gran Torino take the place of TDK...but the Reader? Man, I don't think I will ever understand how that happened. Another Oscar mystery!

  • Andrew

    I have to say i'm really glad The Reader got a nomination. I loved TDK and Wall-E, but The Reader was definitely my favourite movie of last year. Performances asides, it was just a fabulous drama about morality, about right and wrong. I'd urge anyone to go and see it, as it's highly deserving nominee.
    Some people mention the low rating on rottentomatoes, but seriously, is that really a reliable measure? I mean, following that logic would give Kung-Fu Panda a nomination ahead of Milk. What i do think, though, is that certain reviewers have been put off by the subject matter. A lot of reviews, if you read them, seem to totally miss the point- the film isn't about an older woman seducing a teenage boy. To only see it on that level is to completely misinterpret the film. Listen to any interview with Kate Winslet and how she explains the actions of her character and gives her a context. If you let yourself be distracted by what's going on on the surface, well, then you're going to miss out on a fantastic drama.
    For me the film that really didn't deserve a nomination was Benjamin Button. I'm surprised nobody is talking about it as much, especially as it's won no major awards to date. It's an amazing technical achievement, no doubt, but it left me cold. I wouldn't rate it in my top 20. The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married, Revolutionary Road, Doubt...any of those trumps it, in my book.
    But hey- as Meryl Streep said recently when promoting Doubt, films aren't made to be ranked, they're made to be experienced. I'll settle for that.

  • Billions

    The other factor? It's not all that. The internet bristles when people say it: Dark Knight is good and fun but it's not great. Also, when a movie receives a 'Best Supporting Actor' nomination it's certainly out of the running to be called a 'snubbed' film. That is an Oscar nomination, friends. Recognition for work well done. "Snubbing" is what happened to Brad Renfro last year, being left out of the montage of actors that died last year. Dark Knight was a huge success, critically and monetarily, yet DK fans still seem to need some sort of vindication beyond that, or they have hissy fits on the forums and on Digg, taking it out on excellent films in their bitchy wake.

    I'm more upset about The Wrestler getting passed over.

  • Tim

    Best Picture should've gone as follows

    Slumdog Millionaire
    Revolutionary Road
    The Wrestler

    I throw the dark knight on there not because it had a good story, It was a very well done film. There is a lot of genius in TDK. Also because I haven't seen Doubt, The Reader and Frost/Nixon.

    Other noteable mentions I feel should get props for over achievement:
    The Fall (Best cinematography hands down)
    In Bruges (For Martin McDonaugh's first movie, it's really damn good all around. Especially the hilarious script.)
    Vicky Cristina Barcelona (snubbed for best screenplay)

    I guess that's pretty much it, I need to see more movies.

  • USC film 04

    Interesting article. I believe that Wall-E, TDK, and The Wrestler did end up in many best picture ballots. However, I do believe that even more voters left them COMPLETELY OFF for the following reasons:

    Wall-E: "It's a CARTOON! I don't care how exemplary it is"
    TDK: "It's BATMAN! A freaking Comic Book Movie! No way"
    The Wrestler: "Pro-Wrestling? Are you Kidding Me?"

  • Chris

    I still think it's a snub, but whatever.

  • Michael

    Its still a snub.
    The Reader was by far not top 3 of the year.
    Brad had it at 10.

  • JM

    TDK was still snubbed. How is it that there weren't enough people who realized it WAS the #1 film of the year? I think it's awful that TDK and "Wall-E", the two best films of the year by far, both ended up off the ballot because they were too "popular." And when I say "best films of the year by far," I am not talking about entertainment value (though they were both very entertaining). I seriously mean they were the most well-made films of the year, both landmarks in their genres, and both will last longer than the 5 Best Picture nominations (though to be fair Benjamin Button and Slumdog will be impressing audiences for quite some time).

  • Tyler

    Of course, The Holocaust movie will get the nod. AMPAS loves those kind of movies. Had TDK been about Batman coming to the rescue of Jews, and Wall-E cleaning up the remains in Auschwitz at the conclusion of WW2, both would've been nominated.

  • gez

    Why don't they do it on a point system? Say 5th place earns you 1 point, 4th earns you 2 points. etc. etc.

    It seems like a much fairer way to do thing...Although maybe it wouldn't change the outcome at all.

  • Brent

    @Billions: Man, I'm still pissed off about Renfro being snubbed! WTF was that all about?!

  • PHIL

    Thats the biggist bunch of bullshit i ever read..Im not blaming the guy who posted it i give him kuddos for his time and effort to post the rules but no matter how the idiots try to wiggle around the biggest snub in 10 years they are now going to feel the pain when the show finishes with the lowest viewer audiance in a decade..
    Not to mention the credibility that they lost with the public..
    This was an iside job... The Academy members are just a bunch of left/right coast libs that wouldn't dare have a bully film knock out films that more represnt thier lifestyles a.k.a homosexuality/low budget indy films with a rags to riches plot because the hollywood crowd harbor so much guilt so they push this crap on the people who pay thier saleries...Now tell me i'm wrong...

  • Patricia

    Very interesting. Makes me feel smart. Now the question is, are the actors who fill out the ballots smart enough to understand it?

    #9, Stylewriter: Theres's been a lot of talk about the Academy being so tight in its membership that some people nominated, even some winners, have not been invited to join. Makes you wonder about the relevance of the Academy.

    #21, Gez: You make a good suggestion. It would make a change if, for instance, most people had the same #2 but different #1's.

  • stylewriter

    @gez: That's how they do it now.

  • Viral

    hans zimmer and john newton howard not nominated for the BEST FREAKING SCORE this year is a bigger snub than the best movie snub! they had it in the bag... i am from india and love A.R.Rehman to bits... he is a ture genius but this is his weakest muscial score ever... if he deserves a spot then Hans Zimmer and John newton howard deserve the AWARD!!!!!

    i am beyond pissed and the only reason why i will be watching the awards is for Heath Ledger's posthumous award and seeing meryl( love her) or kate(wish it was for revolutionary road) take home the actress nod

    thats it i am boycotting the oscars... long live youtube.

  • JoJo

    A vote is a vote, regardless if it's 1 or 5. 40 members vote on 5 movies, if the movie they like the best gets #1 then that means they like it the best out of the 5. 20 #1 votes for a movie vs. 5 #1 votes for a movie will always win.

    BTW, Will Farrell is an Academy member. Yes, believe it.

  • malevolentmuse

    @JoJo: If you're talking about 40 members, yes 20 #1 votes will always beat out five #1 votes. Now, since the Academy has over 6,000 members, how often do you think 3,000 of them agree on the #1 movie which is the only way your take works.

    Also, so what if Farrell is an Academy member? My biggest complaint about the Academy is it's elitest in its membership when you consider they give out lifetime memberships. That means they only feel 6,000 people to ever have anything to do with movies warrants a say in the Oscars out of the hundreds of thousands of people alive who have worked in movies. If you're limiting it to only 6,000 people does Farrell deserve to be a member? That's questionable. Does he deserve to be a member in general? Yes, along with a lot more than just 6,000 people.